New Tastebuds??

One thing I have noticed at the restaurants here is the beautiful presentation of food. For example, we went to an outstanding seafood restaurant, and my husband’s food was displayed in shells:

Another example of beautiful presentation is sushi from an incredible restaurant we discovered this weekend:

I don’t know if it is the presentation, but since moving here I have found myself trying new things because they were presented so beautifully.

For example, we dined at a Ukrainian restaurant and decided to try borscht for the first time. Here it is in a lovely bowl:

The borscht was savory and delicious and nothing like what I had previously imagined a beet stew to taste like.

At that same restaurant I also had a chicken cesar salad, which was served with a hard boiled egg on top. The dressing to me was not cesar (it was more of a vinaigrette), and I never had a hard boiled egg on a cesar salad before, but now I love it!

We recently dined at an Italian restaurant and I tried a raw egg on spaghetti carbonara. I would never have had a raw egg on anything before moving to Kyiv, so this was a change for me. Must have been the ambiance..

I have also tried a dish called Adjarian Khachapuri at at Georgian restaurant. Khachapuri is kind of like pizza but without the tomato sauce. Adjarian Khachapuri is simply Khachapuri but with a raw egg on top. It is mixed tableside into the cheese. Here is a picture of what Adjarian Khachapuri looks like for reference:

The result was creamy cheesy deliciousness!!

Since moving here I have also tried a salad with raw salmon (I would never have tried it before moving here). Surprisingly I liked it!! Another salmon dish I have tried since moving here is salmon benedict:

Here’s to just the beginning of trying new things!!!

Weekends Are For Parks

One of our favorite weekend things to do is to take advantage of the gorgeous weather we’ve had since arriving and explore the many parks this city has to offer. One park that my husband and I have enjoyed a couple times already in our time here is Khreschatyi Park.

Khreschatyi Park is where the People’s Friendship Arch is located, and there are walking paths and fountains. There were music performances in the park both times we visited. At the edge of the park is the Parkovy Pedestrian Bridge, which crosses the Dnieper River and leads to Trukhaniv Island. People can bungee jump off the bridge during the summer – we saw a couple of brave souls do so on our walk across the bridge!! Trukhaniv Island is a recreation area with a beach, cafes, and bike trails. During the winter this area is also used for cross country skiing.

Here are some pictures of this beautiful area:

Maidan Nezalezhnosti

One of the more famous landmarks of Kyiv is Maidan Nezalezhnosti. Translated in English, it means Independence Square, and is simply called Maidan by locals. Maidan is a hub for shopping, dining, and people watching in general. Underground is a shopping mall, and the square is a good central place to start to explore the main Boulevard, Khreshchatyk, or to go to Meriinsky Park. It is also not far from Golden Gate and St. Sophia’s Cathedral.

They have street performers, festivals and many other events occurring throughout the year at Maidan. After dark we have seen a water show from the fountain set to music. It is quite spectacular.

For more history and information, check this link out:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maidan_Nezalezhnosti

Waiting for HHE…

When you are living the foreign service or military life, you move from place to place approximately every two to three years. The reality is that you spend a few months (if you’re lucky) of each post without most of your household items, personal belongings, and artwork.

Unfortunately I am the type of person that has an innate drive to “nest.” The very first thing I want to do when moving to a new place is unpack and decorate, which is quite difficult when living at a hotel or temporary apartment and/or without your possessions for months. Add the fact that I am currently unemployed and home for a good part of the day staring at the white walls, to say the least I have been experiencing very real anxiety lately due to not having my fully decorated “nest.”

We packed out the end of April, and for the last 4 or 5 weeks my husband and I have lived either in a temporary apartment or hotel, with just belongings that fit in a suitcase (ummm OK, so we each have three huge 36 inch duffel bag suitcases and a carryon suitcase but you get the idea). We have been extremely lucky that our UAB (Unaccompanied Air Baggage) arrived one week after arriving to post. In our UAB we packed additional clothes, pillows, towels, hangers, a few small household items, and bed linens. Usually UAB is delivered 1-3 months after arrival to post, so we received our UAB unusually fast.

It varies from post to post, but it takes 3-6 months (usually) from packout until the time you receive your HHE (Household Effects). It consists of kitchenware, artwork, decor, and other miscellaneous personal belongings. It arrived in Europe two weeks ago, but it has been on hold in another country waiting to clear customs. We do not have an answer for how long our HHE will take to finish clearing customs, and to continue on to us in Kyiv. At very minimum, it will take another week and a half, two weeks for our HHE to arrive, which will bring us to the three month mark from packout.

Because we know it is in Europe, we know it won’t be too much longer until it arrives here in Ukraine (I hope). That has prevented me from going to Epicentr (a hyper market here in Ukraine which is a combination of Target and Home Depot the size of IKEA, maybe a little bit bigger) and buying all the things for our home to make it a little more “homey.”

Anyhow, we are playing the waiting game. And anyone who knows me knows that patience is not one of my strong suits. Therefore, my current status is I am waiting impatiently for my HHE, hoping that it arrives soon so that we can finally have the rest of our belongings which will finally make this apartment feel like “home.”

Learning a New Language..

I am super fortunate that I have some extra time on my hands now to do things around the house, explore my neighborhood, run errands, catch up on things I’ve been wanting to do that I haven’t done in a long time, such as uploading a year’s worth of photos onto a photo hosting website, and to learn a new language..or two.

The Embassy arranges for employees and their spouses to learn the local language if they wish, up to 4 hours of tutoring a week. I am fully taking advantage of this benefit!!! Here in Ukraine the two main languages spoken are Ukrainian and Russian. As I have mentioned in a previous blog post, I have been using the app DuoLingo to learn Ukrainian. It has helped me, but I figured that since there are quite a few countries where Russian is one of the languages spoken, it might be more useful to take Russian lessons than Ukrainian. Russian can be used for our time here, for when we travel to another Russian speaking country, or perhaps if we get a future post in another Russian speaking country.

Although at restaurants most menus have an English translation under each item, at food courts and food stands, the menu is usually in Ukrainian or Russian, with little to no English. It is a challenge to look at a menu and not know what the items are or how to pronounce them correctly.

In addition, the front desk attendants in our apartment building do not speak English, which is another motivating factor in learning Russian. I have had to use Google Translate to communicate.

My tutor and I meet twice a week for two hours at a time. We discuss situations that I might encounter on a daily basis and how to communicate with Ukrainians using Russian. I have learned a lot of vocabulary and phrases. My pronunciation is getting better each time.

I had to get a big notebook to take notes, as I am learning so much each time!! Our lessons are pretty free-form, as my tutor writes words and phrases based on our flow of conversation about everyday life.

I feel that I have learned more in my 4 weeks of Russian lessons than I have in 7 months of DuoLingo- not to discount DuoLingo, because I have learned a lot, but the tutoring lessons have been so practical!! Not only am I learning the language, but we discuss cultural differences and nuances as well. It has definitely been a productive use of my time, and I highly recommend it to anyone going to a post where they do not speak the language.

Mariinsky Park

A few weekends ago my husband and I stumbled upon a gem of a park here in Kyiv- Mariinsky Park. It was lightly drizzling, and we were taking a walk. I saw what initially looked like a small park, so I said “let’s explore this park when it’s not raining.” Well, we circled around the area, and the rain had let up, so we decided to check it out.

The park was much bigger than I initially thought it was. That weekend there were two festivals/events with music going on. The first one was a cultural festival and the other was a stage with a DJ and electronica music. I only took pictures of the cultural festival, where there were singers and dancers dressed in beautiful costumes:

After spending a little time checking out the festivities we continued walking through the over 130 year old park.

There are many events that are held throughout the year at Mariinsky Park, so we will definitely visit again!! For more information about the park, check this out:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mariinsky_Park

How to Grocery Shop Abroad

One of the main differences between grocery stores in the U.S. (at least in the places that I’ve lived) and Kyiv is instead of large one-stop grocery stores with a wide variety of items, here there are smaller grocery stores with a more limited selection. When it comes to grocery shopping, we are extremely lucky that we can find most things here in Kyiv at our local grocery store. However, there are times when you just want certain foods and spices/seasonings that you are used to from America that aren’t sold at the local grocery store.

Add in the fact that my husband has a dairy allergy, and I have had to come up with solutions for grocery shopping. These challenges are nothing I haven’t found a way around. In the past 4.5 weeks or so of living here, these have been my hacks for grocery shopping:

Grocery Store:

Get things like eggs, milk (yes, they have lactose free milk), juice, bread, tortillas (I was shocked to find this!), tea, coffee, mayonnaise(even the vegan kind), granola, ketchup, mustard, hot sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, honey, cooking oil, peanut butter (yes!!!!) rice, pasta, (most) meat, pasta sauce, veggies, and fruit, rice cakes, and most cleaning supplies (called household chemicals here).

Online Grocery Delivery:

I have gotten heavy things like bottled water (we can’t drink tap water here), and things I can’t always find in the grocery store such as lactose free butter, lactose free yogurt, bacon (the kind at the grocery store near us isn’t cured like what we are used to in the U.S.), and some flavors I enjoy of jam. These are delivered to my door (if you place your order early enough, it can be delivered same day) for 69-79 Hryvnias ($3 USD). Being car-free at the moment, carrying heavy items is not fun, which is why I choose this option for heavy or bulky items. You can also order pretty much all of the things listed in the Grocery Store section above through this method of shopping. I suspect I will use this option a lot in the winter when I don’t want to walk to the grocery store in the snow and in sub zero temperatures:)

Embassy Commissary:

The size of a mini-mart, we have a commissary at the Embassy that we have utilized for convenience to get American goods. You can get some things that you can’t find at the grocery store such as vanilla extract, a selection of baking ingredients and mixes, a small selection of frozen American foods, American cereals, marshmallows, coconut oil, some spices, and canned black beans (since black beans aren’t popular here in Ukraine).

Walmart.com:

In approximately 2 weeks, you can have delivered stuff such as taco seasoning, spices, brownie mix (for people like me who don’t care to make from scratch when Ghiradelli does such a good job of making a mix), Panko bread crumbs, popcorn, cereal that is not sold at the commissary, steel cut oats, cupcake liners, and dairy-free chocolate chips, along with most other household goods that Walmart sells that are not liquid. That is important- no liquids, gels, or aerosols can be shipped overseas via our DPO (Diplomatic Post Office). Just be aware that when you buy food from Walmart, they sell them in jumbo size or multiples of the same item.